Lunch with the author

Delightful crocodile and monkey cookies served during a festive Lunch with the Author at Hudson Maxim School in Hopatcong, NJ.
Delightful crocodile and monkey cookies served during a festive “Lunch with the Author” at Hudson Maxim School when children’s book author Kim Norman visited Hopatcong, NJ, in the spring of 2014.

Some schools like to schedule a special “lunch with the author” event. Usually this means inviting a few students (selected by the school) to share lunch with the author. Or it may be a larger luncheon with balloons and pizza with a few students from each grade collected at tables, and the author is asked to drop into each one for a few minutes. (This was the case at Hudson Maxim School, pictured above. Luckily, I was supplied with plenty of croco-cookies to fortify myself.) Students are chosen to attend the lunch in a variety of ways, from attendance records to number of books read to essay contests to simple lotteries. How they’re chosen will be up to your host.

Some coordinators really have their hearts set on having an author lunch while others seem willing to take it or leave it. I generally wait for a school to ask about having a lunch. I never suggest it myself. I enjoy author lunches, but I wouldn’t be totally honest if I didn’t admit that I prefer a bit of quiet time to being the center of attention, keeping up lively conversations with a dozen shy students during lunch.

Because they will be shy, no matter how extroverted they are in class or even during an assembly. Somehow, most students lose their bravado when seated across the table from the author. Which puts pressure on the author to drum up conversation. Since I’m usually trying to refuel not only my body but also my brain during the lunch break, I’d rather the kids do the talking while I listen and munch. So, if they are shy, I try to get a conversation going around the table by asking them questions they can take turns answering. Questions like:

What’s your favorite book? (And I assure them they don’t have to name any of my books.)

Do you have any pets?

What’s your favorite animal?

What do you like to write about?

Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?

The only topic I declare off limits is video games. I don’t know a thing about them and I find that some boys begin to monopolize the conversation if the subject comes up.

Here’s a very important lesson I learned the hard way: CHECK THE SCHEDULE CAREFULLY. I was once booked at a school by a very sweet but very new-to-author-visits coordinator who told me she wanted to include a lunch with the author. No problem, sez I. When she sent the schedule, I skimmed it, mostly looking for my arrival time, for padding time between sessions, that sort of thing. When the day arrived, and lunchtime rolled around, I discovered that she had planned for me to have SIX LUNCHES — about 10 to 15 minutes sitting rotating among tables in the lunch room (the lunch room!) with each grade. In other words, 15 minutes with a tableful of kindergartners, then move to another table for 15 minutes with first graders, etc., until I had “lunched” with all six grade levels. Shame on me for not realizing her plans, but lemme tell you, I have never allowed that sort of mistake to happen again. I specify one lunch, and please not in a noisy lunch room.

I need a quiet room for two reasons: number one, I need to save my voice, so I can’t be shouting across the table. And number two, even if I’m having lunch with a few youngsters, I still need to rest as much as possible, because presentations take a whopping amount of emotional, mental and physical energy. There’s simply no way to recharge my batteries in a noisy lunch room.

But I did learn a lesson from that: read the schedule carefully!

PlanningYourVisit_coverSmall_byKimNormanHave you signed up for Cool School Visits updates? Sign up using the form on the upper right side of this page, and you’ll receive a free copy of my guide, PLANNING YOUR AUTHOR SCHOOL VISIT, which includes sample programs and breakdowns to target your sessions to different grade levels. (If you’re on a smart phone, keep scrolling and you’ll find the form at the very bottom of any blog post, below any comments.)


  1. says

    I am so thankful for your information that you have been sending through this. Your first information came a couple weeks ago the very day that I was scheduled to meet with the coordinator for two schools. I’m scheduled to do an author visit this Friday, so believe me this is really timely information. The coordinator is for to school one is K through second, with 9 classes. The second is for preschool through second with 13. the preschool she scheduled me for 20 minutes, and the rest for 25 so that we can squeeze them all into one day. She had the classes mixed together, but I decided that it would be better to have all kindergarten together and all first grade and so forth. she has arranged for me to have lunch at the second pool for my granddaughter goes to kindergarten, so that will be a little different than what you had talked about. I thank you for this timely information it has really been helpful for me.

    • bigbosslady says

      I’m excited for you, Karen. Sorry it took me so long to reply, so I guess your visit is TODAY. Yay!! I think it was smart to collect your groups by grades, and the allotted times sound good, too. Each session will just fly by, and you’ll have so much fun! If you get a chance, pop back in later to let us know how it went.

  2. says

    Your wisdom is very much appreciated on this. Forewarned! Thank you.

    OMG, 6 lunches???? What on earth were they thinking? If it were me, with all my food issues, I wouldn’t be able to survive on crocodiles. Sugar isn’t on my list.

    I am SO grateful for all you share with us here. THANK YOU!!!!

    • bigbosslady says

      My pleasure, Verlie. Well, truth be told, those crocodile & monkey cookies were more pretty than tasty. You know how that hard, decorative frosting it. Yes, that 6-lunch fiasco was a rarity, but really my own fault. The coordinator was very new and really sweet. I should have done a better job guiding her. And should DEFINITELY have read the schedule more carefully!

  3. says

    I am a substitute teacher for a couple school districts, so it was easy for me to meet with the principal to discuss the possibility of an Author Visit. He said he just had to talk to the teachers. They agreed and will soon schedule me for a visit.

    • bigbosslady says

      How exciting, Lenita! Congratulations!! Pop in later to let us know how it went. That’s brilliant, using your former contacts.

  4. says

    I’ve experiences a handful of author luncheons. Some good, some, not so good. My best experience was in my hometown, Corydon, Indiana. My series is also set there. The media instructor chose two from each grade, 4th, 5th, and 6th, to have lunch with me, and they were asked, by the media specialist and teaches to submit their questions in advance. While they were also given the liberty to ask whatever they wanted, they were guided to keep their questions relevant.

    What really tickled me was having lunch with a 4th grader who had dressed up as my POV character, Gus, for the school’s “favorite literary character dress-up day! Move over, Harry Potter and Hermoine Granger! Ha!

    • bigbosslady says

      Love this story! I don’t think anyone has ever dressed up in costume for any of my lunches. Now I’m jealous! 😉